As Andrew Sullivan noted, describing the migration of college students into the media workforce, “We are all on campus now.” And, as I’ve been describing in the last few days, the mainstream Left media, like the Washington Post and the New York Times, is become thoroughly and irremediably campus-style woke. This will not abate: wokeness is a one-way ratchet to pure authoritarianism. And so the NYT, like the Washington Post, the New Yorker, and New York Magazine, is becoming strikingly similar to the newspaper of a progressive college like Middlebury or Williams—except that its “campus” is the entire country.
Take, for instance, the article below by writer Jami Nakimura Lin, in the Times’s “parenting” section. Lin rabbits on at great and tedious length about how to name her child from a multicultural family. The word “erase” in the title is a clue to wokeness, as the word is firmly ensconced in the argot of the Offense Culture, and most often means nothing except “I’m worrying that people will forget about me.” In this case, it doesn’t even mean that, for whatever Ms. Lin names her daughter, it’s not going to “erase” Lin’s own identity. She’s still alive and young and has years to establish her identity through her own acts.
Read and cringe. This is the kind of article you’d expect to see in HuffPost, not the good (?) gray Times:
Lin is an American of Japanese and Taiwanese descent, while her husband is white and Jewish. In such a case, what do you name your child? Well, you can mix its ancestry among different names, for one thing, and that’s what they did:
When I (a Japanese-Taiwanese American woman) married my husband (a Jewish white man) I kept my last name, wanting to maintain that visible part of my identity. Our background and cultures are important to both of us, so when our daughter was born, we chose her names carefully — so carefully that she ended up with four names. Her first name honors my dead father, Charlie. Her first middle name is both Hebrew and Japanese, her second middle name is my Taiwanese last name, and her last name is my husband’s Germanic last name.
That seems a fair solution, but there are two complications. First, the child’s appearance is largely white, which to Lin is apparently “problematic”:
At first I thought her four names were a beautiful compromise. But at 18 months old, her eyes are bluish-gray, her hair is light brown. While I’ve tried to wrestle with what it means for her to appear so light in a society that hugely privileges whiteness, I’ve grown more uneasy about her name. Her first and last names, the most salient parts, look and sound as white as her features. This might seem like a benefit at a time when racism against Asian-Americans is rising again. To me it seems like a loss of the part of her that is me, of the part of her that is our history.
But if the child appeared Asian, would it be any better to have an Asian first and last name? After all, her ancestry would be written on her features. And above the first accusation of racism surfaces—a necessary part of such an article (the link goes to an article about coronavirus).
So, if her child’s first and last names are “white”, and she looks white, well, you have to fix the names. So we get more agonizing:
Armed with newfound regret, I asked my husband what he thought about switching Lin to be one of her last names. Though he agreed, we haven’t yet taken the plunge, partly because I’m daunted by the bureaucratic process, and partly because people have warned me about the dreaded hyphenated last name (“It will take so long to fill out forms!”). When I’m being indulgent in my daydreams, I also want to give her a fifth name, my own middle name, as well. Sometimes I convince myself that all of this sounds rational.
All is well; the husband agrees that Lin can be part of a hyphenated last name. But that’s not good enough because of bureaucracy, and so comes the weighing of a fifth name to ensure that everybody knows that this white-appearing child has Asian and Jewish genes. And no, Lin’s angst is not rational. It’s self-indulgent whining. Why didn’t she just stop writing when she realized she wasn’t being rational, or, better yet, deep-six the entire article?
Nevertheless, Lin persists, going back deep into her family history, bringing up the incarceration of Japanese American during World War II—an horrible historical event, but one that doesn’t need mention in this article except to remind people of bigotry against Asians (which Lin doesn’t seem to have experienced).
In the end, it becomes clear that Lin is trying to name her child for two purposes that seem a bit weird. First, to remind the child of who she is. Well, a child is more than its genes, and of course you can always tell a child about their ancestry (I think ancestry is overrated, but that’s another issue) without hanging five monikers on the poor thing.
But, and more selfishly, Lin admits that this endless agonizing about names is Lin’s own way of both controlling who her child becomes (how this would work is unclear), and also ensuring that the child knows who she is. To wit:
When I wonder, When will she know who she is? I also mean, When will I know who she is? Daily we accumulate data. Stuck at home in the pandemic, we watch her develop with the precision of zookeepers overseeing a caged animal: the way my gestures are refracted in her wild, lumbering movements, the way she modulates her reactions to what my husband finds most hilarious. Our daughter, our tiny mirror. Perhaps this choice is so fraught because our names — mine, my husband’s, our daughter’s — are functioning as proxies for not only our cultures, but ourselves. Underneath the question, Should we change her name is the question, Can we control who she becomes? I equivocate so long over the former because I cannot yet face the answer to the latter.
What a thicket of self-indulgence we must chop our way through here! The answer to Lin’s question in the penultimate sentence is clearly, “no, you cannot control who your child becomes.” You can try, but I believe statistics show that a child’s character is formed more by her peers than by her parents. I’ve known tons of parents whose children have not turned out to their liking despite all their helicopter-parenting. And you certainly cannot control who a child becomes by giving her five ethnically diverse names in the vain hope that the child will become a pentacultural being. In the end, Lin is using her child to perpetuate Lin’s own identity, a strange and solipsistic notion if ever there was one.
I can’t restrain myself: Lin’s piece is pure, unadulterated tripe, an embarrassment to the New York Times—if the paper is even capable of being embarrassed these days.
Not only that, but there went 1200 words that I didn’t need to read. (Well, I guess I did to monitor the Times‘s fulminating wokeness). And 1200 words the paper didn’t need to print. Truly, this is an article that should have been put in the circular file, for what needs erasing is not Lin’s identity, but her piece. And so we watch what was once America’s paper of record turning into the HuffPost, and it’s both sad and frustrating. What can we read now?